Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O Lord, according unto thy word. Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.
Lord, Thou hast dealt well!
This acknowledgement, and that, too, as a matter of experience, dominates this entire section of the psalm.
Enemies there were, haters of God and of His Word, that “forged a lie against” the psalmist, hated him, persecuted him, and spoke all manner of evil against him falsely.
And the inspired psalmist, as the servant of the Lord, had been in distress, afflicted, no doubt, because of and by the hatred of the enemies of Jehovah. Of this affliction he speaks twice in this section.
However, in the midst of affliction and persecution by the enemy, the psalmist had not become unfaithful, had not departed from the ways of the precepts of the Lord, but had loved and kept His testimonies.
And through it all, he had come to acknowledge by experience, that the Lord is faithful, that His promises are sure, that His Word is true, and that always Jehovah deals well with His servants. Even when suffering and tribulation is our lot, even when the enemies rise up against us to destroy our soul, the Lord is good, and He causes all things to work together for our salvation.
Such had been the experience of the psalmist.
Looking back upon the affliction of the past, he now clearly discerns that it was good for him to be afflicted.
Lord, thou hast dealt well with thy servant!
According unto thy word!
O, but indeed, that is the Word of the Lord throughout, that He always deals well with His servants!
Particularly it is His Word, that even when He casts us in the crucible of trial and tribulation, through that very suffering of this present time He deals well with His servants.
It is this which the psalmist here confesses.
In the first part of the text he speaks experience. He is looking back. The immediate past brought him suffering. He has been sorely tried. But the affliction, for the moment, is passed. And now it is all over, he may and does, indeed, testify from experience that the Lord dealt well with him. He can see it now. Perhaps, this fact was not always so clear to him while he was in the midst of his suffering. But in retrospect he discerns it clearly. And now he compares this experience with the Word of God, and he acknowledges that the two are quite in harmony, that the Word of the Lord is faithful and true: Lord, thou hast dealt well with thy servant, according unto thy word!
This implies, that the Word of God assures His servants in this world, that the Lord will always deal well with them.
And, indeed, it does!
When the psalmist speaks here of the Word of God, he refers not to any special and particular revelation which he had received, but to the entire revelation of God in Christ, as it had always been addressed to all the servants of Jehovah in the midst of this present world, as it gradually increased and grew in riches and clarity, as the poet possessed that Word of God in the testimonies of the Lord which he knew and loved; as it was centrally and completely fulfilled in the fullness of time in Jesus Christ our Lord, in His incarnation and sojourn among us, in His Word and work, in His death and resurrection, and exaltation at the right hand of God, and in the pouring forth of the. Spirit of the exalted Christ, the Lord of all; as it directs the eyes of our hope to the final goal, His coming again with power and glory, to reveal His glory, and to establish His eternal kingdom in which the tabernacle of God will be with men.
The gospel of the promise!
And that Word throughout, emphatically and in various ways, assures the servant of the Lord, that He will always do well with him, will never leave or forsake him, will be a shelter to him in the time of storm, a strong tower into which he may always run and be safe, that He will sustain and keep him, that not a hair will fall from his head against the Lord’s will, that He will bring it to pass., and that He will cause all things to work together for his good, even also and emphatically the apparently evil things of this present time; and that absolutely nothing, on earth or in heaven or in hell, can possibly separate him from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Such is the Word of God.
It is a light in darkness.
It is a strong assurance of salvation in the midst of the sufferings of this present time.
A mighty consolation in the time of trouble!
The faithfulness of this Word the poet had experienced. And of it he sings: Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O Lord, according unto thy word!
Let us not misunderstand this confession, and give it an erroneous application. The psalmist does not have in mind any temporal or material good the Lord had bestowed on him. When he acknowledges here that the Lord had dealt well with him, he does precisely not mean that his pathway through this present life had been bright and rosy hitherto, and that he had been spared, suffering and affliction. The very contrary is true. His way had not been characterized by material prosperity. Emphatically he speaks of his affliction. But in and through that affliction the Lord had dealt well with him. Nor does this well-dealing of the Lord refer to the fact that the affliction which the psalmist experienced belongs to the past, and the Lord had delivered him out of all his troubles, so that for the present, at least, his way was one of joy and prosperity. On the contrary, he regards his affliction, the sufferings he had endured, as the Lord’s dealing with him. Even though it were true, that the enemies of the Lord had inflicted this suffering upon him, he now realizes that through the enemies it was the Lord that was dealing with him and so, the affliction itself was a good to him. In the tribulation the Lord dealt well with him.
Abundantly evident this becomes in the rest of the section.
Does he not clearly express that he regards the affliction itself as a good? Before he was afflicted he went astray, but now he had kept the Word of God. It was good for him to be afflicted, that he might learn the statutes of the Lord.
The well-dealing of the Lord, of which the psalmist speaks, does not have reference to all, therefore to any natural, earthly, material, temporal good, but to the spiritual heavenly, eternal blessings of the kingdom and covenant of God, as they will ultimately be realized in all their fullness in the final glory of God’s heavenly house, the heavenly perfection of His eternal covenant of friendship.
And thus is the promise of the Word of God throughout.
Not that His people will be excused from, will be spared the sufferings of this present time, is the promise of God to them. On the contrary, not only do they lie in the midst of death with all the world, and must they, therefore, endure with the world the sufferings of this present time in general; but they must also expect that special tribulation which is the fulfillment of the sufferings of Christ. “In the world ye shall have tribulation!”
And ahead still looms the great tribulation that shall leave no room in the world for the faithful. . . .
But be of good cheer!
The Lord deals well with His servants!
Such is His Word!
And that Word is the revelation of His eternal counsel concerning our salvation.
In that counsel He has so willed and arranged all things, even all the sufferings of this present time, even all the powers of darkness that rave and rage furiously against the ‘Church, that they must all work together for the final salvation of them that love Him, who are the called according to His purpose.
That counsel He reveals and realizes in time, so that all things are made subservient to the purpose of our final glory.
And always it is true: The Lord deals well with His servants.
According to His Word!
Serious qualification indeed!
Not with all, not with the reprobate wicked, that depart from His ways and love iniquity, does the Lord deal well.
The contrary is true. Even their prosperity is designed by Him to serve as slippery places on the which they hasten to their destruction. Even when they are made to grow as the grass, it is that they may be destroyed for ever.
He loveth the righteous!
They are those that love Him, that stand in covenant relation to Him, that know Him and keep His commandments, and in this world represent the cause of the Son of God. Them, and them exclusively, He doeth good, and with them He deals well even in all the experiences and vicissitudes, all the sufferings and afflictions of this present time.
Not, indeed, as if they had ought to boast.
For they are not servants of Jehovah of themselves. On the contrary, they were children of wrath, even as also the others. And if God’s well-dealing with them depended at all upon anything they are or accomplish, they could expect nothing else than eternal wrath and darkness and damnation. But they are servants because God ordained them as such in His eternal good pleasure. That is why He could deal well with them when they were yet enemies, and give His only begotten Son, that they might not perish, but have life, and become His servants indeed. . . .
And always He dealt well with them.
He forgave all their iniquity, and cleansed them from all their guilt, clothing them with His own righteousness in Christ Jesus their Lord.
He quickened them together with Christ, called them out of darkness into His marvelous light.
He changes them from servants of sin and the devil into His own by the wonder of His grace.
He preserves them by His power through the faith He gives unto them.
And He makes them more than conquerors even in the midst of their enemies.
His servants they are, yes, but solely through His sovereign grace!
That no flesh should glory in His presence!
For not a mere doctrinal statement is found in these words, but a glad and joyful and thankful acknowledgement of Jehovah’s faithfulness as it was experienced by the psalmist.
And blessed are they, indeed, that may thus acknowledge and taste the goodness of the Lord!
More blessed still are they, that may be so taught and upheld by the grace of their God, that even while they are in the midst of affliction they may joyfully confess: ‘‘Lord, thou art dealing well with thy servant, according unto thy Word!”
That is the victory of faith!
The psalmist here is after all speaking in retrospect. He was afflicted, but the affliction is now past. And he reaped and is enjoying the fruit of tribulation. It has become a matter of his experience that it was good for him to be afflicted. He received the fruit of righteousness. He was sanctified through suffering. Before he was afflicted he wandered, but now he keeps the Word of his God. He is able to see the salutary effect of affliction as it was sanctified unto his heart by the grace of God. And so, speaking in the past tense, he rejoices in the Lord and confesses: Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O Lord, according unto thy word!
How blessed, however, even in the midst of tribulation to glory!
O, it is not easy, it is impossible for the flesh (and how mighty is often the flesh in us!) to rejoice in the well-doing of the Lord, even when the way grows dark, and all things appear to be against us! When we suffer, not only the sufferings of this present time in general, but also the tribulation that comes upon the servants of the Lord exactly because they are His servants; when it seems as if God’s cause in the world must suffer defeat, and the wicked prosper; ah, then, we are so easily inclined to cry out in doubt and fear: “Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
The more faithful we are as servants of the Lord, the more we suffer affliction!
How can it be, then, that the Lord deals well with His servants? . . . .
Then, too, how often we, too, seek the “good” in the things of this present time, the things that are seen, rather than in the spiritual things of the kingdom of God! For we are earthly, and our desire is after earthly things. And the flesh darkens our understanding, so that we do not clearly discern the good. . . .
We glory also in tribulation, yes, but with fear and trembling. . . .
And well may, if our faith is to have the victory in the midst of the suffering and tribulation of this present time, the prayer of the psalmist be constantly in our heart and on our lips: “teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I have believed thy commandments.” Judgment, that is, clear and distinct spiritual discernment of the real, eternal, spiritual good, that we may be sober, and evaluate all things in the light of the eternal; and knowledge, true spiritual, experiential knowledge of that eternal and spiritual good,—that is what we need daily, to be able to rejoice in the well-dealing of the Lord in the midst of trouble.
Then, and then only, faith can have the victory, and we may glory even in tribulation!